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In his remarkable 40-plus-year career, one which has resulted in touchstone hits for upstarts and superstars, shock rockers and progressive pioneers, producer Bob Ezrin has invariably taught more than a few artists a lesson or two. Asked to recall the biggest kernel of wisdom he's ever gleaned from his years in the studio, the record maker sums it up by insisting that the art of music is all that matters.
"When your motivation is to simply be successful and sell records, you’re going to fail," Ezrin says. "But if you’re interested in doing something excellent and producing work that matters, you’re going to succeed. The best artists I’ve worked with have always obsessed over their work; they’ve paid very little attention to the market that it goes into. They know that the art is all that counts."
Barely out of his teens, Ezrin absorbed the ins and outs of record making from Jack Richardson, the late Canadian music giant who helmed a string of hits for The Guess Who and started the Toronto-based Nimbus 9 Productions. While Richardson's protege, he received a full year of training that involved everything from how to wrap a mic cable to writing string charts. "Jack taught me everything there was to know about recording," Ezrin says. "He kicked my butt before he turned me loose on the world with Alice Cooper. But at that point, I was a pretty knowledgeable, confident guy. I'd gone through my apprenticeship."
Along with Richardson's son Garth, himself a noted record producer whose credits include Rage Against The Machine and Biffy Clyro, among others, Ezrin started the Nimbus School Of Recording Arts in Vancouver in 2009. The motivation for establishing a teaching institution was not altogether altruistic, as Ezrin explains: "Garth and I were talking about the number of people we had to fire, which was pretty incredible. We kept finding that so many young people were lacking in some areas and had an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. We need good people to work with, and we figured, if can’t find them, we should develop them ourselves."
Already, Nimbus is turning out success stories (a number of graduates now work at Richardson's Vancouver facility, The Farm), but its young alumni will have a ways to go to match the achievements of its co-founder. On the following pages, Ezrin takes a look back at his times behind the studio glass and shares stories behind the making of some of rock's greatest masterpieces.